Can Limits Help Productivity Soar?
My mobility was limited last month when I sprained my ankle. I found myself having to do things differently or not at all for a while. I missed meetings, outings, and workout sessions. This downtime caused me to consider how my friends with chronic disease (and the accompanying physical limitations) fare.
Here are their productivity secrets based on my observations:
- Contribute however you can, making contributions most suitable to your strengths. My friends are dedicated people, both in the workplace and in the community. When the workload is being divided, they will say something like, “well I can’t do X but I can do Y.” Quickly volunteering for what I do best makes it easier for others to plan. And, I can be more productive if I use talents unique to me.
- Know and communicate limits. My friends are clear about what is doable and what isn’t. I like to think that I can do it all, and I possibly could if my days were longer and I didn’t require time for working, eating, sleeping, and exercising. Note to self: don’t apologize for limits.
- Don’t waste an action. Having a sense of what is essential and what isn’t is valuable. Planning, routine, and focus are keys to efficiency. Energy expended should relate directly to established goals.
- Accept help when appropriate. Time- and energy-saving options via free or paid services (ranging from grocery shopping to bulky-item carrying) can improve productivity. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help. Hanging around people who are willing to help rather than judge is extremely useful (one of the reasons to make reading Zen Habits a habit, in addition to my daily dose of Wise Bread and its productivity tips).
- Think ahead and ask questions. I do like adventures but I can see the value in knowing the details of physical accommodations for planning purposes. Just slight modifications can make a huge difference in productivity.
- Take time to rest. Rest may not seem like a productivity tip. Working 50-60 or more hours may be needed to make a project deadline or just get caught up on some paperwork. But too many hours at the office or staring at the computer can backfire, dulling creativity, disrupting sleep, and zapping energy.
and life lessons:
- Explain, don’t complain. If you’re hurting or have limitations, it may be difficult not to complain. My friends stay positive and don’t focus on the disabling or limiting aspects of a disease. They do, however, calmly explain their physical condition on a need-to-know basis. A brief, simple explanation seems to work best, covering the unasked questions and then allowing diversion to other topics. (For an explain-don't-complain example, see Amy's posts on getting treatment for Lyme Disease.)
- Understand that not being indispensable doesn’t devalue you as a person. I have felt that if a workday, event, or project went well without me, then I was no longer a viable part of the group. My talents are valuable even if they are not continuously and perpetually needed.
- Realize that relationships rule. Avoiding unnecessary activities doesn’t necessarily lead to better relationships but it does allow more time for forming and cultivating friendships, including those with your family.
My new year's resolution, then, is to accept limits (I can't do it all) and focus on what is important to me. I hope my productivity soars.